A new bookable community bus service linking Haverhill with West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has been launched.
Mary Evans (Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs), MP Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), Dr Stephen Dunn (CEO of West Suffolk Hospital), Mike Hennessey (Director of Adult and Community Services), and local county councillors David Roach and Quillon Fox were all in attendance for the launch at Haverhill Bus Station and rode on the service’s launch journey from Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital.
The service, which passengers can book through the online community transport service called ‘RIDE’, will be provided by The Voluntary Network – Suffolk County Council’s Connecting Communities operator in West Suffolk.
It follows demand for a new way for people to travel from Haverhill to the hospital. A six-month pilot started this week, linking the town’s bus station with West Suffolk Hospital, 18 miles away.
Villages close to the A143 will also have opportunity to use the service which will operate, on demand, Monday to Friday, between 7am and 7pm. Passengers will be charged fares in line with local bus services. A full return trip will cost £8.
Councillor Evans said: “If you need to get to hospital for an appointment, want to visit someone or if you work at the hospital, you need viable travel options. I am just one of the many people who have been asking for a direct bus service from Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital for years, so I’m absolutely delighted that Suffolk County Council has been able to offer this new service. I am especially pleased that people from the villages along the A143 route will be able to use the service.
“We now need people to make this a viable long-term option by using it as regularly as possible. With opportunities to book return journeys each day, I think this will help people make the journeys they need.”
Mr Dunn added: “It’s extremely good news that Suffolk County Council has put this pilot in place. We know there are transport challenges for our more rural patients. This service will provide a much needed solution for our patients and staff travelling to and from Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital, to access our CQC-rated ‘outstanding’ services more easily.”
Mr Hancock said at the launch: “It’s a great pleasure to be here for the inaugural service of the new Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital RIDE bus service. We’ve been campaigning for this for a long time. It’s good for people who want and need to use the West Suffolk Hospital from Haverhill. I’m hugely grateful for all of the support from Suffolk County Council and from West Suffolk Hospital for making this happen.”
RIDE is a website that gives visibility to community transport services operating in the rural areas of Suffolk.
Suffolk County Council and the NHS West Suffolk Clinic Commissioning Group need NHS staff and hospital visitors to support and use the new RIDE service. Its success will ensure the future operation and sustainability of rural transport in Suffolk.
All journeys must be booked in advance. To book a journey with RIDE, you can go online at www.bookyourride.co.uk at any time or call 01638 664304 Monday to Friday between 8.00am and 4.00pm.
People are also able to suggest other pilot routes using the “Suggest Future routes” section of the RIDE website.